An Excerpt from the book, Inside IMSA's Legendary GTP Race Cars, The Prototype Experience
By J.A. Martin and Michael J. Fuller
Text and images copyright Michael J. Fuller
1992 fuel regulations stated simply that “Class-A” gasoline
that met the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) D-439
was eligible for competition in the IMSA GTP series as long as it
a specific gravity of .750. At
discretion, IMSA reserved the right to sample and verify that the fuel
conforming to the ASTM specification; this comes straight from the IMSA
Article 11.3. But
by mid-season it
became evident that the fuel regulations were being pressed rather hard. According to TWR Jaguar
Manager Tony Dowe, “I
certainly was not backward in pushing the view that
Watkins Glen round IMSA took fuel samples from three
competitors; the #83 Nissan, #99
Toyota sample showed to be “way out” of specification, AAR
was presented with the results and was subsequently deferred to Drino
and TRD, says Woodward, “Gurney had no idea what it (the fuel) was and
have to talk to Drino.” Woodward
immediately attempted to reach Drino but he had already left the office
Road America round, “We were prepared to take samples but hadn’t made
decision, we were still trying to work it out.”
Woodward spoke with Miller first thing at Road
During the race IMSA sent five groups of scrutineers to take fuel samples from the top five competitor’s refueling rigs. The samples were all taken simultaneously and were drawn from Nissan (#83), the Joest Porsche 962C (#30), Mazda (#77), and the two Toyotas (#98 & 99), and sent blind (samples A, B, C, D, and E) to Core Laboratories in Houston Texas, an American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) certified laboratory. They were then tested against the ASTM 439-89 specification for automobile gasoline.
The primary test consisted of boiling the fuel samples and noting the temperatures at which 5%, 10%, 20%, 30%, etc., 95% evaporated off. This distillation finger print would then give an indication of the nature of the fuel make up, heavier vs. lighter elements, with the heavier elements being conducive to power generation. The more temperature it took to burn off a percentage of the weight indicated heavier chemical components.
While the test results were pending the Road America race results were listed as provisional.
IMSA received the test results from Core Labs by late August, though they had been in constant phone contact and had a heads up as to what to expect and had subsequently been planning how to react. Despite the outward appearance of a witch hunt, there was much hand wringing within IMSA. IMSA didn’t like the prospects of what the test results told any more than anyone else; 4 out of the 5 fuel samples did not meet the ASTM standard and were therefore illegal. The #77 Mazda RX-792P was the only car that was deemed to be within the regulation.
IMSA was conscious of the potential fire storm and didn’t come to any conclusions easily.
responded by initially stating that the accused teams would
loose their points from Road
TRD and Drino Miller, as laid out in On Track magazine, began to publicly formulate a potential legal stance in order to challenge, and have thrown out, the fuel test results. The argument was that ASTM guidelines specifically stated the temperature, between 32 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit, at which the fuel samples should be drawn and subsequently stored and shipped.
TRD wasn’t alone, “I wrote a long rebuttal to IMSA refuting the results based on the fact that the fuel sample collection, handling and storage procedures did not conform to the ASTM specification governing the sample collection process, which could in turn lead to erroneous test results,” says Nissan’s Wes Moss. The concerns were that with the high ambient temperatures at which the fuel was drawn and shipped, lighter elements in the fuel could have been allowed to evaporate off leaving a less representative sample from which the distillation fingerprint was taken, thus making what was potentially legal, illegal against the ASTM specification.
But there were also rumors of a lawsuit being filed behind the scenes, to the tune of $6,000,000.
IMSA was in weak legal standing by not following the ASTM
guidelines to the letter. In
the end it
didn’t really matter that the test samples taken at Watkins Glen and
result was that IMSA backed down rather than go head-to-head with
a protracted legal fight. All
competitors were cleared on appeal.
provisional results from Road
ęCopyright 2008, Michael J. Fuller